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Digital divide threatens police elections

Millions of people who do not regularly use the internet could be denied information about the candidates for police commissioner elections, the Electoral Commission has warned.

The Home Office has ruled out posting out details of the elections to households, meaning 7 million people could be disadvantaged, the Commission suggests. The information will be provided through a central website instead.

Elections will be held in November for police and crime commissioners in 41 force areas acrossEnglandandWales. Commissioners will replace police authorities and set the police budgets and priorities, though will not have direct control over operational issues, which remain the responsibility of chief constables.

In its response to a Home Office consultation, the Electoral Commission says: “Only providing information about PCC candidates on a central website will disproportionately affect groups that have low levels of internet access, such as the elderly and those who live in rural areas.”

Spokesman Alex Robertson told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the commission was “very, very mindful of cost” and had set out a number of different options to the Government, including sending information to households rather than individuals.

He added: “We’ve also made the recommendation that if the Government does go ahead with their proposal we make sure that the website is as accessible as possible. And for those people that have to rely on phoning up to ask for information to be posted out to them so that process works as smoothly as possible.”

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